April 4, 2019
Now that we’ve got the basics down, we can move forward in time. It was the second generation of K-Pop that moved the genre outside of Korea and into Japan and the USA and also the era where I found K-Pop. BoA a female soloist that debuted in 2000 and TVXQ a male quintet debuted in 2003 (a duo since 2011) led this international charge by taking on the Korean and Japanese markets simultaneously to great success by singing not only in Korean, but also in Japanese. Many of these songs are not just translations, but original songs in Japanese. Nowadays its not uncommon for K-Pop groups to be constructed with members from Japan, Thailand, and China or even Asians from other Western countries. The more languages in a groups repertoire, the greater number of audiences they can reach.
Around 2007 to 2010 there was a large push to entire the American market to mixed results. This was mainly led yet again by BoA who released several tracks in English, the Wonder Girls a female quintet who debuted in 2007, and Rain a male soloist who debuted in 2002. The Wonder Girls tried to tap into the American youth by releasing an American EP, touring with The Jonas Brothers, and even appearing in a Nickelodeon television movie. Rain made number one on Times Magazine’s Most Influential Person of 2007 to the faux dismay of number two of the year, comedian Stephen Colbert which resulted in a number of comical interactions between the two on The Colbert Report and even a parody of Rain’s hit How to Avoid the Sun. Rain even appears in 2008 movie Speed Racer and furthermore stars in 2009 movie Ninja Assassin.
Girls’ Generation tried to step into the American market with their album The Boys and even appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman. As the American waters were being tested, K-Pop in South Korea grew exponentially. In this era you could find the likes of BIGBANG, Brown Eyed Girls, Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, KARA, 2NE1, 2PM, BEAST, SHINee, MBLAQ, Miss A, Infinite, Sistar, and these are just some of the successful ones. Many of the groups also became popular in Japan and began expanding to Asia Tours and if we were lucky “World” Tours aka the US.
As K-Pop grew, it became clear that South Korea had not just a cultural phenomenon on their hands but a $5 billion export and this wave of K-Pop influence became known as Hallyu or the Korean Wave. With such influence comes saturation, to the point where a for a few years (2014-2016) I couldn’t keep up with all of the idol groups debuting. I just stuck with the artists I liked, and eventually these artists’ contracts with their labels end. Not until 2016 did I start paying attention again because the groups I followed were releasing less and less music and I needed new content. Somewhere along the way the so-called third generation of K-Pop came up. I can’t pinpoint it, but something about K-Pop shifted.
The world was not just recognizing K-Pop, but K-Pop was recognizing the world. The music was becoming diverse, for example in 2017, K-Pop was having a tropical house moment and then in 2018 there was an influx of Latin influence in the music as well. Acts both large and small were visiting Europe and South America more. Music festivals began featuring K-Pop artists. The SXSW Music Festival held every March in Austin, Texas has its very own K-Pop night which has featured showcases consisting of not just idols like f(x), Hyuna, Red Velvet, iKON, Chungha, and MAMAMOO, but also Korean hip-hop artists like Jay Park, Zion. T, DEAN, and Epik High. Epik High was also the first Korean act to perform at Coachella, and now this year female quartet BLACKPINK and indie group Hyukoh will also be performing. Male septet Monsta X was also the first K-Pop group to join the line up of iHeartRadio’s annual Jingle Ball event in 2018.
It’s 2019 and K-Pop is going strong and spreading its wings farther than ever. Domestically, powerhouse groups BTS and TWICE have just had their juniors, TXT and ITZY respectively debut to huge acclaim. Twelve member girl-group LOONA have just released a music video for their song Butterfly, which doesn’t even feature them half the time, something unheard of in an industry where presence is everything. BTS announced a new world tour and have sold out MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and Wembley Stadium in the UK. BLACKPINK appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Tiffany, formerly of Girls’ Generation is now actively performing and promoting in the Western Market with her new EP Lips on Lips. This may be a lot to take in as a primer into K-Pop, but really I could go on, the fandom, the variety shows, and even the dark side of the industry. Now is as good a time as any other to jump into K-Pop, the industry is always moving and there is a huge backlog to explore.
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